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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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Volume 1 Number 1

Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

Aircraft Review Used Aircraft Guide

A slightly beefier version of the Skyhawk offers somewhat improved performance.

The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is, in many ways, the standard fixed gear single. Filling much the same niche in aviation as a Toyota Camry does in the automotive world, it may not be exciting, but it performs its mission very well. The 172 has much to recommend it: good stability, docile handling, low stall speeds and a fairly rugged airframe design. Inevitably, though, there are those who want or need a bit more performance. For those pilots, Cessna offered the Cardinal as a step-up fixed-gear single. Sporting a 180 HP powerplant and constant-speed prop in all but the earliest versions, the Cardinal fit into the lineup between the Skyhawk and the larger (and more powerful) Skylane.

Introduced just as the Cardinal was being ûphased out, the Hawk offers similar perforûmance. It needs an extra 15 horsepower ûto do it, though.

The Cardinal was a clean-sheet design, offering a distinctly different configuration from the typical Cessna upright, strut-braced layout. Major differences included a cantilever wing (borrowed from the 210), low-slung stance, a seating position that put the pilot ahead of the wing's leading edge, and a stabilator instead of the tried-and-true elevator. Unfortunately, the Cardinal earned a bad reputation early on. The first versions had 150 HP engines and fixed-pitch propellers, and were lackluster performers. In fact, it was found that the original Cardinal couldn't even meet its own handbook performance figures. Exacerbating this was a tendency for the stabilator to stall at low speeds. Cessna addressed the poor performance with a 180-HP engine, followed by the fitting of a constant-speed propeller, and the retrofitting of leading-edge slots to the stabilator. The fixes worked, but the Cardinal never really recovered from the bad reputation earned by the first models. Cardinal sales declined, and in the late '70s Cessna decided to replace it. Rather than going to the expense of designing another new airplane, the company elected to stick with the tried and true 172 airframe, retrofitting it with a bigger engine and constant-speed propeller. The 172 had a well-deserved sterling reputation, and the use of an existing airframe meant that the company could produce the airplane for less than the Cardinal. To make the Hawk XP, Cessna chose to hang a six-cylinder Continental IO-360K with a two-bladed constant-speed propeller on the Skyhawk. This six-cylinder powerplant normally produces 210 HP at 2800 RPM. Cessna derated the engine to 195 HP at 2550 RPM. The gross weight was bumped up to 2550 pounds, 250 more than the Skyhawk. The "new" airplane was introduced in 1977, carrying the designation R172K. For two years or so, the Skyhawk, Hawk XP and Cardinal were sold side-by-side. Average equipped prices for that year were: Skyhawk $30,050; Hawk XP $38,680; Cardinal $39,195. The following year,

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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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presumably to avoid direct competition between the Cardinal and Hawk XP, the Cardinal was loaded with avionics, a new name (Cardinal Classic) and had its price cranked up to a hefty $50,760 versus $41,050 for the Hawk XP. (By the way, the XP also made it into military colors at the T-41B, serving as the primary trainer for Air Force pilots.) Cessna got the marketing right with the Hawk XP. In the year of introduction, the company built 724 Hawk XPs, versus only 149 Cardinals. 1978 saw another 204 XPs roll out the factory doors compared with a lackluster 74 Cardinal Classics. We think the disparity in the second year had at least as much to do with the hefty price increase on the Cardinal as anything else. The Hawk XP succumbed to the general aviation decline along with most of the other airplanes available at the time. Production lasted until 1981, with a total production run of 1450 airplanes. During that time, few changes were made. During this time, Cessna made a company-wide switch to 28-volt electrical systems. In addition, the flap speeds were increased, the crankshaft was strengthened (which carried with it an increase in TBO, from a mediocre 1500 hours to a respectable 2000; the later engines were designated IO-360KB), an oil filter, an improved avionics rack with a cooling fan, and a recontoured elevator. The company didn't abandon the idea of an uprated Skyhawk, however. In 1980 Cessna brought out the Cutlass RG, a retractable Skyhawk with a 180 HP Lycoming and constant-speed prop intended to be a trainer for complex aircraft operations. In 1983 the same powerplant/prop package was attached to the fixed-gear 172 to create the 172Q Cutlass, which lasted for two model years and 390 units. Cardinal comparisons When the Hawk XP was introduced, The Aviation Consumer did a side-by-side comparison of the new airplane and the Cardinal. We found that the Cardinal was, on the whole, a better airplane. It offered better handling, better visibility, a much larger cabin, less noise, lower maintenance costs and almost identical performance and load-carrying capacity. The Cardinal was a bit faster, could carry a bit more and could take off and land a bit shorter. On the other side of the balance sheet, the Hawk XP could fly higher and farther. Despite the lack of a clear-cut advantage for the Hawk XP, it trounced the Cardinal in sales. Such is the power of marketing and reputation. At the moment, prices for comparable Cardinals and Hawk XPs are close to one another; average-equipped versions of the two airplanes go for $60,000 and $63,000 respectively. The recent trend has seen the Hawk XP appreciate a bit faster than the Cardinal. Performance The Skyhawk airframe has much to recommend it, but sleekness is not high on the list. Those struts take their toll in speed, after all. Book cruise speed is only 130 knots, and owners report real-world cruise speeds of about 125. Considering that the Mooney 231, also equipped with a Continental IO-360 (albeit producing the full 210 HP) flies along at 170 or so, the XP is rather lethargic for an airplane with nearly 200 horsepower. The impact of a draggy airframe is perhaps more clearly seen by comparing the 195 HP Hawk XP to a standard Skyhawk; contemporary 172s had 160 HP, and the 35 extra horses only make eight knots or so. Gross-weight climb according to the book is 870 FPM, a tad better than the Cardinal or the Skyhawk, and about the same as the Skylane. Gross-weight takeoff performance is virtually identical to the Skyhawk. Of course the XP's numbers come at a higher gross weight, but 150 pounds of that is taken up by the heavier engine and prop. The real payload difference is only 100 pounds. Despite the unimpressive book numbers, XP pilots rave about real-world performance. One fellow swears he gets 1,500 FPM at moderate weights, even in warm weather. In winter, he does better still. "Has near-STOL characteristics," reports another. This doesn't surprise us.

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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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The basic 172 has good short-field performance thanks to its low stall speed, and the extra power can only help. Useful load for a basic-IFR XP runs around 900-950 pounds. One owner of a lavishly equipped XP reports 879 pounds. With the standard 49-gallon tanks filled, the cabin load is about 600-650 pounds: three people and some luggage. Subtract 100 pounds if the optional 66-gallon tanks are filled. At max cruise, the XP slurps 11 GPH-plus, but most pilots throttle back to 10 or less. At moderate power, four hours and 450 NM is about as long as you'd want to fly one. The optional tanks stretch the range to 650 NM. Compared to its successor, the Cutlass (same airframe, 180-HP Lycoming), the XP looks bad in terms of payload and range. The Cutlass has the same gross, but weighs 100 pounds less and burns 1.5 GPH less fuel. Handling Since the Hawk XP is essentially a Skyhawk, it's no surprise that it handles like one...that is, steady, sedate, and not exactly fighter-like, though we did talk to one pilot who taught himself aerobatics in a T-41B, the aforementioned military version of the XP. Roll response is fairly ponderous, and pitch control is heavier than the Skyhawk, due to the extra weight of the engine. (The new elevator that appeared in 1981 reduces pitch forces.) Handling characteristics like this are both good and bad, depending on your point of view. They may not set your hair on fire, but snappy handling is exactly what you don't want in an IFR platform. The stubborn stability of the Skyhawk airframe is one of the biggest reasons it has such a good safety record. The huge flaps cause some pitch changes, and they're so draggy in the 40-degree position that go-arounds can be a bit dicey (flap travel was reduced to 30 degrees in later models). This is a typical Cessna characteristic. On the ground, the nose wheel steering is rather heavy. And the high-wing design makes the XP very susceptible to winds on the ground. Again, typical Cessna. In short, the handling is exactly what you'd expect from an airplane based on the Skyhawk. Predictable, stable, docile, and offering no surprises. These characteristics meet the design mission very well. Accommodations The interior of the Hawk XP is fairly comfortable. Like the Skyhawk, the panel is relatively tall and the seating position upright. Cessna offered articulated seats with height adjustment, a welcome thing for shorter pilots. These seats are, of course, subject to the famous Cessna seat-track AD. Access is easy due to the double doors, and getting into the back seats is easier than on low-wing designs. It's easier to step up into a cabin than it is to lower yourself down into a pit. Ventilation on the ground is good thanks to windows that open. There's adequate head- and legroom for all four seats. Visibility is the classic tradeoff of highversus low-wing aircraft. One particular caveat with Cessnas is that the top of the door window is almost the same level as the The panel is Skyhawk-standard, with the extop of the glareshield. So there's some ception of the prop control. obstruction to the side when the seat is raised to improve forward visibility. The panel is reasonably well laid out, with standard vernier controls and conventional instrument placement. The cockpit gripes applicable to the Hawk XP should come as no

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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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surprise to Cessna buffs: Royalite panels that crack, vent tubes that can pop open at high speeds and the infamous ARC electronics. The baggage compartment is of reasonable size, with a fairly large door. It can be accessed in flight. The size of the door is a welcome thing should it be necessary to get out of the airplane through it after a crash. Engine The heart of the XP's performance--and problems--is the six-cylinder Continental IO-360-K and -KB engine. It's expensive to overhaul and has a mediocre reliability record. The engine's main problem seems to be that it's tough on cylinders. Low compression and/or high oil consumption are not unusual. Not everyone has cylinder problems, of course--one owner reports 1,800-plus hours of trouble-free operation--but cylinder cracks, along with piston, ring and valve troubles, seem more common than in similar Lycoming engines. One owner, for example, reported he had to replace two cylinders in the first 600 hours, then had a cracked piston that allowed most of the oil to leak out. Scans of SDRs show that cylinder cracking is fairly common. Connecting rods have also been a problem. A batch of undersize rods found their way into thousands of IO and TSIO-360s during the late '70s, causing dozens of failures. Though most of the failures occurred in the turbocharged engines, some failures have occurred in the normally aspirated powerplants as well. There have also been crankshaft failures. Continental beefed up the crank in 1979, producing the -KB engine. It had an improved TBO of 2,000 hours. Good thing, too, given the cost of overhaul. Maintenance Judging from owner reports, the XP is easy to maintain; not surprising, since it has the same airframe as the old, familiar Skyhawk. Surprisingly, despite the extra weight up front, we have found no real problems with the nose gear or its attachment at the firewall. Typically, airplanes with heavier engines are more likely to suffer hard-landing damage from pilots slamming the nose down. Still, we recommend a close look at the area. Unfortunately, most XPs were made during the years for which Cessna is infamous: 1977-80. This was when the ARC avionics had their worst engineering and quality control problems. Also, virtually all single-engine Cessnas made at this time had defective paint jobs. Trying to get airplanes out the door as fast as possible, Cessna ignored DuPont's specifications and used a cheap, quick primer under the paint. The result was persistent, cancerous filiform corrosion that affected hundreds (if not thousands) of aircraft, particularly those based in warm, humid climates. By this time, most if not all of these aircraft have been repainted, but a check should be part of the pre-buy inspection. One advantage of buying a Cessna single is that it's very easy to find parts and maintenance expertise. The Hawk XP is no exception. The airframe holds no surprises, and it's not different enough from the standard Skyhawk to cause any trouble for mechanics. There are no particularly onerous ongoing ADs on the Hawk XP. Naturally, several of those that apply to the 172 also apply to the XP, but for the most part they're one-time modifications that should have been done long ago. Recent directives include 97-1-13, a Cessna-specific "shotgun" AD that mandates replacement of hoses; 97-26-17, which calls for ultrasonic inspection of the crankshaft and possible replacement if defects are found; and 95-11-8, inspection of the prop blade clamp screws. Safety The 172 series has proven to be one of the safest four-place singles, however. Again, we attribute this to its stability and docile handling characteristics, along with a very strong airframe design.

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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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The fuel system is as simple as it gets, and the XP does not suffer from the fuel bladder problems encountered in the past by owners of the 182. Fuel system related accidents are rare. Not so rare are accidents related to engine failure. Past reviews of the record have shown that, next to takeoff and landing accidents, engine failure was the most common cause of non-fatal Hawk XP accidents. In terms of crashworthiness, the Hawk XP is fairly good. Contemporary Piper aircraft had more crashworthy seats, but the Cessna benefits from having more doors and opening windows. In addition, should the airplane come to rest inverted, the doors will still open. This is not the case with the wrap-around doors found in many low-wing airplanes, and it is certainly not true of the sliding-canopy Grummans. Pilots should note, however, that under certain circumstances (a hard impact that leaves the airplane upright) the wings can deflect downwards enough to prevent the doors from opening. Mods, club STCs are available to bump the power of the derated IO-360 back up to the full 210 HP. There is also the usual selection of flap, aileron and elevator gap seals, go-fast fairings, and so forth. It's a safe bet that any company that makes mods for the Skyhawk has a version available for the Hawk XP. The owner's club to join is the Cessna Pilot's Association (www.cessna.org, (805) 922-2580) which offers a magazine, insurance discounts and technical help. Owner comments Regarding the Hawk XP, I currently own and operate a 1977 model. The aircraft was completely refurbished by Sun Quest Air Specialties at Paine Field in 1995 at the time I purchased the aircraft. Suffice it to say that the aircraft is as good or better than new since the work was performed by Sun Quest. I fly mostly two plus bags and typically have 1000+ FPM climb rate and cruise at 128 knots burning 10 gallons per hour. The handling characteristics are predictable and very stable. I base the aircraft in a very windy section of the Northwest which is famous for windsurfing. High crosswind landings are very common here, as is a fair amount of turbulence. The XP handles these conditions Hawk XP was also available as a floatplane. very well. I attribute this characteristic to its The extra power comes in handy here. basic 172 airframe construction with the extra power required to handle some of the more challenging aspects of flying in this area. I earned my instrument rating in this plane and find it easy to fly almost perfect approaches, because of its "heavy" plane feel and very tractable handling. The XP has had virtually no maintenance performed in the 250 hours I have owned the aircraft. Oil consumption is approximately one quart per 10 hours with the routine oil change every 50 hours. Cylinder compression remains in the mid-70s on all cylinders with 500 SMOH on the engine. I fly out of a grass strip at an elevation of 2000 feet MSL. The XP has never had any difficulty: even when fully loaded, it can get out when the air temperature is hovering around 100 degrees F. To summarize, the XP has been a great airplane with very low operating costs. I figure approximately $35.00 per hour, all expenses included. I highly recommend this plane to any

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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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pilot looking for a good-performing aircraft which will not cost you a fortune to operate. William Bottomley Address withheld

We bought our 1979 Hawk XP in 1982 here at Daggett, California, where we're still based. We are the second owners. Daggett is in the high desert, and the airplane has been kept parked under the shade hangars originally built during WWII to protect A-20 Havoc bombers. One of the things that could have been better designed on the XP is the nose gear. For this heavy engine a gear with the capacity of the 182 would be a much better choice. Just don't let the nose drop on landing, because it's really heavy. Dry air and our watchful A & P son have helped get us through any corrosion problem. After two years of trying to keep the Cessna ARC radios going, we made the change to dual King 155s with dual glide slope, DME 62, KMA 24 audio panel & marker beacon, keeping the transponder, ADF and the Cessna 300 autopilot. This setup makes for a very good crosscountry plane both IFR and VFR. The Continental IO-360-KB engine went about 30 hours past TBO before having Redlands Aviation do a complete overhaul. We now have 412 SMOH and are very pleased with their attention to our needs. Annuals have run about $600 to $700 before our son took over. Oil use is two to three quarts for each 50 hours when the Champion filter and Aero Shell 15W50 get changed and an analysis sample taken. Fuel burn at our usual altitude of 10- to 12000 feet averages 10 to 10.5 gallons per hour, with a true airspeed of 120 knots. Yes, 8 to 9 gallons per hour is possible through aggressive leaning, but a little fuel is a lot less expensive than engine work. The GEM we installed is a great aid to engine health. Our insurance premium for $55000 hull is $718 for the year. We've only gone for a few mods. We have added Skybolt's stainless steel fastener kit to the cowl (they sure look and work better than the original painted and chipped versions), Rosen sun visors help with the sun in our face and vent tubes by Soros, Inc. keep the vented air adjusted to our liking. The 195 HP Continental has sufficient power for our needs. Usually it's just my wife and me with a small amount of baggage, either going up the east side of the Sierras to Douglas County and over Tahoe or up the San Joaquin Valley to Jackson, near Sacramento. From time to time we take a trip to Death Valley, 211 feet below sea level for breakfast or to Big Bear Lake, at a field elevation of 6748 MSL. I'm sure a standard Cessna 172 just would not give us the ability to choose our destinations as freely. R.E. Hamm Daggett, Calif.

For some reason, a lot of people like to knock the Hawk XP, but I'm not one of them. I've flown 15 kinds of single-engine aircraft, and none serves my needs better. Before I bought it, more than one person told me the engine was a maintenance hog, but I hope every engine I own is this good: after 1,820 hours of regular use, I've had no problems at all. The biggest problem I have is electrical. I have a Stormscope and S-Tec autopilot, plus an electric standby vacuum pump, which is supposed to be turned on in IMC. It's very easy to overload the 35-amp alternator, and I've never been able to reset the circuit breaker in flight. Roll rate is slow, the elevator is heavy, and slow flight requires a lot of control movement; but these traits make the airplane a dream on an ILS. It's the easiest airplane I've ever flown in this

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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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regard. Stan Taylor Mount Dora, Fla.

I purchased a 1980 Hawk XP new, and flew and maintained it for five years. The first problem came at 150 hours, when light corrosion set in. Cessna provided a very fair allowance for repainting. At 425 hours, I converted the derated 195-HP engine to 210-HP with the STC from Isham Aircraft. The conversion consisted of a new prop governor, tach, and fuel flow/manifold pressure gauge. The new redline is 2,800 RPM, and the full-throttle fuel flow goes from 16 to 18 GPH. This high RPM can be maintained for about five minutes. This improves climb rate considerably, and you can still throttle back for economy. With the conversion, performance is outstanding. Even the standard XP is very good. Bus Blaksley Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

I fly a '79 XP, bought "new" in 1981. The airplane had been left out in the weather and used only for short demo flights. I have no doubt that this led to much deterioration. In the first two years the fuel drains rusted and began to leak. The mag seals, tach drive seal, prop seals and pushrod seals all had to be replaced. The pushrod seals failed again, and they still leak. A through-bolt snapped off the no. 2 cylinder at 589 hours. I find the IO-360-KB to be a very messy engine. I change the oil every 30 hours and have to add a quart every six or seven hours. The engine has the 210-HP STC, and since the airplane is on floats most of the time the expense is worth it for the extra performance. Compared to a standard 172, it's a little heavier on the nose, but takeoff performance is outstanding. George Watts Canyon, Minn.

In 1994-95, I owned a half share in a 1977 C-172 which had been converted in 1984 by Avcom to an XP. The aircraft subsequently was imported to the UK and later flown for two years (1993-94) by my partner and me. I reckon to have put 200 hours on it during that time. It will be of little value to comment on costs since cost structures are quite different in Europe, though I did find the average fuel burn to be about 8.5 US GPH at 55% power, probably one GPH more than the standard 172. I used the XP for IFR flight, mainly on business travel within Europe though sometimes for family touring. For those used to the standard 172, the first time you fly an XP you'll feel the difference--it goes up like a rocket! In fact, the single most significant characteristic of the aircraft is not so much its extra speed (negligible unless firewalled) as its climb performance. With full tanks and at gross weight, I could cruise at FL 110-120 thus benefiting from added fuel economy, from ice avoidance in winter and, most important, from the ability to climb through low level layers quickly. European weather is notoriously poor at low level, particularly in winter when the freezing level is typically at 2-3000 feet. "Ice escapability" is critically important here where airway bases are generally higher than the US, and the XP provided the power/climb margin to turn a C-172 into a business single for all seasons. The C-182 hauls more and does so faster, but European avgas prices make it far more expensive. Hence, on this side of the pond, the 172XP fills an important gap in the Cessna market for the IFR pilot. At present I fly an Arrow. Although annuals are more costly, the running costs are only a bit higher and the aircraft is faster and has greater range. But I miss that sense of indestructibility and the two door, high-wing configuration which keeps you and the passengers dry. In a word, the XP is a delightful aircraft and anyone thinking of a standard 172 should consider paying that

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Cessna 172XP Hawk XP

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bit more for the very notable performance difference. Dr. G.W. Irvin via e-mail

Also With This Article Click here to view charts for Resale Values, Payload Compared and Prices Compared. Click here to view the Cessna R172K Hawk XP features guide.

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